2018 was an incredible year for live music, this year I had the honor of getting to take in over 20 shows and I wanted to share my 10 personal favorites!
- Albert Hammond Jr/The Marias at First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, PA-03/30/2018
Albert Hammond Jr’s latest album Francis Trouble really slipped under the radar as one of the better rock records to come out in 2018. It’s tight, catchy, and fun the whole way through. His live shows back that up ten-fold. He’s high energy, jumping up and down and running into the pit every other song. The crowd was very engaged and dancing along the whole show, even though the record had only come out a few weeks earlier, everyone in the audience knew all the words. It was a really fun show in one Philadelphia’s best venues, and it also marked the first time I had the chance to finally catch a show at First Unitarian Church.
- Sunflower Bean/Suburban Living-Everybody Hits, Philadelphia, PA-01/26/2018
Everybody Hits is a strong contender for my favorite venue in Philadelphia, my only wish is that they have more shows there. It’s far from your conventional concert venue. By day Everybody Hits is a batting cage and Philadelphia institution, by night the cages turn into the perfect DIY venue for a great night of music. My first time getting to explore it was this past January to see Sunflower Bean play before they released this year’s terrific TwentyTwo in Blue album. The band was terrific and the setlist featured a lot of songs off their soon to be released sophomore album. They brought a ton of energy with them and even debuted a couple of cuts off the new record. They were joined by the excellent local band Suburban Living as a support act who did a fantastic job opening the show.
- Metallica/Jim Breuer- Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA- 10/25/2018
Metallica have spent the vast majority of the past two and a quarter years touring the world behind 2016’s Hardwired….to Self-Destruct. The extensive tour comes after only playing live from time to time for the past eight (a stretch that included no North American arena dates). I’ve seen Metallica three times now on their “Worldwired” tour; Global Citizen Festival in New York City in 2016, Metlife Stadium in New Jersey back in 2017, and then finally this year at Wells Fargo Center in October. The latest date was by far the best set I’ve seen the band play from a performance and setlist perspective. Drummer Lars Ulrich in particular was locked in like I hadn’t seen from him before. A really nice added bonus to this show was that it was local rock station WMMR’s 50th Birthday finale concert, having one of metal music’s most beloved and established acts close out the yearlong celebration for one of Philadelphia’s best and most historic radio stations just felt right.
Metallica’s decision to bring along comedian Jim Breuer instead of another up and coming band as a traditional opening act was something I was skeptical about, but was instantly proven wrong on. Breuer was hysterical and turned the entire pre-show into a hysterical party that was a ton of fun.
- Halestorm/In This Moment/New Years Day- BB&T Pavilion, Camden, NJ- 11/17/2018
Halestorm have long been one of the better rock band consistently touring and recording new music, this year I finally had the opportunity to see them live on their tour to promote their new and excellent album Vicious. The new songs like “Black Vultures”, “Killing Ourselves to Live”, and “The Silence” have a terrific energy live and slide in comfortably along some of their most well-known tracks like “I am the Fire” and “I Miss the Misery”. The show was punctuated by an awesome drum solo from drummer Arejay Hale where he really seized the opportunity to show everyone why he’s one of the best drummers in rock today.
In This Moment played right before Halestorm had one of the most impressive stage set ups and theatrics that I’ve ever seen at a rock concert. New Years Day was the first band on the bill and instantly won the crowd over. They also debuted their new single “Skeltons” for the first time in concert at this show and it was great to hear it live for the very first time.
- Florence + The Machine/Grizzly Bear- Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA-10/14/2018
This year was my second Florence +The Machine concert. The first time I saw them live was in 2016 at Camden’s BB&T Pavilion as the headliner for one of the Radio 104.5 Birthday show concerts and they completely blew me away. I remember leaving that show thinking that Florence Welch and company NEEDED to be playing arenas as soon as possible. This year, touring behind their new album High as Hope, Florence + The Machine finally gave me my wish. Florence completely owned the Wells Fargo Center and yet again proved that she has one of the most amazing voices in music today. She sprinted around the arena and somehow never ran out of an endless supply of energy. Her biggest hits felt even bigger in the arena, as songs like “Dogs Days Are Over” and “Shake it Off” are just meant to be heard in a gigantic sing along with 20,000 of your friends.
- The Struts/The Parlor Mob- TLA, Philadelphia, PA-11/19/2018
You really have to hand it to Luke Spiller and company, The Struts somehow have the stage presence of an arena rock band 10 years their senior. This was my fourth Struts concert, each show has been better than the last, but this time they really outdid themselves. Each of those first three shows I kept feeling like The Struts were on the cusp of blowing up. This time it felt like they arrived. The new songs sounds terrific live and sound even better than they do on the record, which is no small feat considering Young and Dangerous was one of my favorite records of the year. Songs like “Fire (Part 1)”, “Ashes (Part 2)”, and “Somebody New” were fantastic live. The Struts are one of rock’s best and most promising young bands, I can’t wait to see how they continue to evolve, but already they are one of the best live rock bands touring today. The Parlor Mob from Asbury Park, NJ were a terrific opener for the show and I am already trying to plan a trip up to catch them live in hometown.
- The Longshot/The Trashbags- First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, PA-06/02/2018
This is the kind of show you remember for the rest of your life. Billie Joe Armstrong rocking out for almost two hours in a BYOB church basement that’s hot as fuck (so hot that they had to take a break mid-set to beat the heat for a few minutes) and way over capacity. The Longshot were a really nice surprise to see this year and when their fantastic debut record dropped this year I knew these shows would be special. The setlist was made up of eight of the eleven tracks off of Love is for Losers and then nine more covers that ranged from Green Day deep cuts, to The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, The Replacements and more. This show as unbelievable top to bottom and the opener, New York’s The Trashbags were also great. They have a classic punk sense of style and sound to their music, they fit the bill really well next to a legend like Billie Joe Armstrong.
- The National/Cat Power/Phoebe Bridgers- The Mann Center, Philadelphia, PA-09/27/2018
Talk about an indie rock dream come true. The National, Cat Power, and Phoebe Bridgers all sharing the same stage. As soon as this show as announced I bought my ticket as soon as soon as I could through The National’s Cherry Tree fan club and had the date circled on my calendar. Phoebe Bridgers is a star in the making and opened the show playing mostly cuts off of 2017’s Strangers in the Alps album and “Me and My Dog” off her most recent EP Boygenius which was recorded with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus earlier this year (which was definitely my favorite record of the year hands-down). I’ve been dying to see her since I first heard Stranger in the Alps and she didn’t disappoint. Cat Power has also long been on my list to see and I am so happy I finally was able to this year as she was promoting her newest record Wanderer, released this year. In typical Cat Power fashion it’s a terrific record full of some really beautiful and heartbreaking lyrics. She was fantastic live and I am so glad I finally got to check off an indie rock legend like her off of my bucket list of performers.
This was my third National show in the past year and a half and just like the others it was unbelievable. The National always manage to play like a subversion of expectations when you see them live. They have this way of bringing an incredible urgency and energy into their live shows that really blows you away. Whether it’s playing a song like “So Far Around the Bend” for the first time since 2009 or front man Matt Berninger sprinting to the back of the amphitheater during “Day I Die” stealing people’s phones for videos and selfies, this band always finds ways to surprise and delight you live. They ended the show by turning off the mics and doing an acoustic sing along with the audience to “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” off of 2010’s High Violet that was nothing short of incredible and emotional.
- Jack White/ Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Governor’s Ball Music Festival, New York, NY-06/01/2018
2018 was a huge comeback year for Jack White. After taking a touring hiatus and remaining relatively out of the public eye for the past few years the blues and garage rock legend returned with one of the years best and most divisive albums Boarding House Reach and an incredible world tour. I am a massive fan of all of White’s work ranging from the hits of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, to the hard charging blues of The Dead Weather and the diverse sonic landscapes he’s painted in his own solo career. During his two hour set he touched on every era of playing career and tore the stage down with his iconic and earth shattering guitar riffs. He even hit on some of the experimental stuff off Boarding House Reach like “Everything You’ve Ever Learned” and “Corporation”. Seeing how he played them on stage and seamlessly fit them into a set that also featured songs like “Black Math”, “Icky Thump”, “I Cut Like a Buffalo” and Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” was nothing short of amazing. Jack White is one of the few guitar gods left in 2018 who actively makes music and tours, so take any opportunity you have to see him, because between the hits in his back catalogue and just having the opportunity to watch the man play the guitar it’s a can’t miss show.
Playing the main stage just before Jack White were indie rock legends the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In recent years they’ve also kept a pretty low profile releasing their last album Mosquito in 2013 and playing live only sporadically since November of 2012. If there was any doubt that Karen O, Brian Chase, and Nick Zinner still had it, they were quickly squashed as the band completely owned and destroyed the stage. Playing opposite Post Malone, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs still drew a pretty big crowd for their New York homecoming and played a setlist that touched on every album of their career, but still leaned heavy into their classic 2003 debut Fever to Tell and 2009’s beloved It’s a Blitz. The energy they brought, especially by front-women Karen O was out of this world and had everyone up on their feet. Here’s to hoping 2019 brings us some new Yeah Yeah Yeah’s music and a tour, because I can’t wait to see them again.
- Pearl Jam- Fenway Park, Boston, MA- 09/02/2018
The first of two sold out nights at America’s most beloved and historic ballpark, Fenway Park, Pearl Jam ran through a career spanning set that touched on everything from established classic hits such as; “Black” and “Alive” off of Ten, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” off Vs., “Given to Fly” from Yield and mixed them with rarities like the Vitalogy era “Not For You” B-Side “Out of My Mind” which was played for only the fourth time ever (and first in 9 years), and Vitalogy deep cut “Tremor Christ”. The band even mixed in an impassioned cover of Little Steven’s “I am a Patriot”, and emotional rendition of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”, preformed solo by Eddie Vedder on a guitar that Petty once gave him. Everything about this show was perfect. Guitarist Mike McCready was in a different universe with his solos and Eddie and the boys were having an absolute ball on stage. Every Pearl Jam show is it’s own unique experience. The set list is never the same and songs have evolved over time whether through the arrangements on stage, Mike’s solos, Eddie’s lyrics, the physical energy of Eddie still running around stage (even if he is no longer stage diving from camera rigs and the tops of stages). Pearl Jam have this special way of turning even the deepest songs in the back catalog into a sing along with an entire baseball stadium. That’s the type of energy that Pearl Jam bring every night and it’s one of the reasons that they are best live band on planet Earth and Night 1 at Fenway was no different.
Pearl Jam Preforming at Fenway Park Photo Credit: Mitch Larson
An added layer was that this show was that it was the centerpiece of a trip that I took with my father up to Boston. We got to tour the city and some of the surrounding areas like Lexington, Concord, and Salem, and then winded the weekend down by getting to see Fenway Park (a first for my Dad) and a band that we both love. There’s no understating how much this show meant to me, getting to hear songs like “Release” and “Given to Fly” live with my Dad is something I will always be grateful for and never forget.
Pearl Jam Preforming at Fenway Park Photo Credit: Mitch Larson
The Misfits/Suicidal Tendencies/Murphys Law/Harley Flanagan at The Prudential Center
Me and My Brother outside of the Misfits concert in Newark, NJ. The show was phones free so there are no photos of the band preforming. Photo Credit: Mitch Larson
The Gaslight Anthem 10th Anniversary of The 59 Sound at The Stone Pony
The Gaslight Anthem preforming at the Stone Pony Photo Credit: Mitch Larson
Liam Gallagher/Richard Ashcroft at The Fillmore
Liam Gallagher preforming at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, PA Photo Credit: Mitch Larson
Gang of Youths/Common Holly at Underground Arts
Gang of Youths preforming at Underground Arts Photo Credit: Mitch Larson